Okay, Some Rocks Need to Be Backed Up - EnterpriseStorageForum.com

Okay, Some Rocks Need to Be Backed Up

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More than seven years ago, I wrote an article titled Rocks Don’t Need to Be Backed Up. It was something of an internet sensation as storage articles go, generating more than 100,000 views in a matter of days.

I based the article on an Egyptian obelisk my wife and I saw in New York City’s Central Park. Here is the picture used in the 2009 article, in which you can clearly see the 4,000-year-old object:

Egyptian obelisk

Note that you can clearly see the hieroglyphics, and thanks to the Rosetta Stone, you can actually translate what it says into a modern language. But until finding the translation on the Rosetta Stone between ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs, Demotic script and Ancient Greek, no one knew what these hieroglyphs meant for roughly 1,800 years. Non-optimal, as I like to say.

So while in France this year with my wife, I saw another Egyptian obelisk and thought it was time for an update:

Egyptian obelisk

Clearly, there is some significant data loss on the above rock, so I guess some rocks do need to be backed up, as anyone who’s ever visited an old graveyard can attest.

What does this mean for data protection?

Hieroglyphs are pretty easy compared to what we have today. Something as simple as file formats, many of which are used on Microsoft OS and others, are a nightmare. Here are just a few of the ones starting with the letter A:




ADA source code file




AlZip Compressed Files' pieces


Graphics AIIM image file


World file for Alice programming language, version 3.1


Assembler language source for 8080

AA, AB, ...

Split parts of a single whole file


Advanced Audio Coding, a standardized, lossy compression and encoding scheme for digital audio


AutoPatcher file


Advanced Authoring Format, an advanced media wrapper file for professional applications


Animation Play Script


Android adb Backup






Alembic - 3D geometry / models




Music in ABC format




AVS Barcode Profile


Adobe Binary Screen Font


Automatic backup file


Image PALS album file


Album file (various programs)


Adobe Brush file for PhotoShop


Abstracts (info file)


Data file


Project backup

There are 275 beginning with the letter A alone, 180 for B, and so on. You get the point.

In 20 years, much less thousands of years, how is anyone going to figure out what data is stored in each of these file formats? Of course, some of them are open source, but many are not. And even for open source, who is going to save the formats and information for a decade or more? I cannot even open some MS Office documents from the early 2000s, and that is less than two decades. The same can be said for many other data formats. There are self-describing data formats such as HDF (Hierarchical Data Format), which is about 30 years old, but outside of the HPC community, it is not widely used. There are other self-describing technologies in other communities, and maybe like HDF they could be used for virtually any data type. However, everyone wants what they have, not something new or different, and NIH is what usually happens in our industry.

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